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Faculty Share Research Stories & Advice During ScholarSnack Panel Discussion

October 9, 2018

“You need to have the discipline to edit yourself. Sometimes your writing is downright bad, and you must be able to cut it – to realize, ‘this has to go!’”

Debjani Bhattacharyya, PhD, Assistant Professor of History at Drexel, offered this advice and more to the 17 students, faculty and staff who attended the Libraries’ ScholarSnack panel discussion on October 1, 2018 in the Dragons’ Learning Den.

Two women and one man sit at a long rectangular table
Debjani Bhattacharyya (left), Linda Kim, and Alden Young were panelists at ScholarSnack.

Linda Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor of Art and Art History, and Alden Young, PhD, Assistant Professor of African History and the Director of Africana Studies at Drexel, also served as panelists at the student-focused event. Each spoke about their recent book publications and answered common questions about research and publishing, like “How do you come up with a research topic?”

All three panelists agreed research topics generally start out as an idea based on a researcher’s interest in a topic or theme, but those ideas often evolve based on available source materials or a new discovery made during the research process.

“Sometimes you have to let the material transform your thesis, and that’s absolutely OK,” Kim explained of how she came up with her dissertation topic, which she recently turned into a book, Race Experts: Sculpture, Anthropology, and the American Public in Malvina Hoffman’s Races of Mankind. “I started out writing about Auguste Rodin’s female protégés, but as I was doing my research, I learned about one protégé, the sculptor Malvina Hoffman. I was really drawn to her and her story, and I decided to focus on her specifically.”

While writing their respective publications (all three of which are based on the professors’ PhD dissertations), the three Drexel faculty members formed a writing group.

“Writing groups are always helpful,” explained Young. “It’s hard to write alone! Joining a writing group allows you to get feedback from people outside your field. Your colleagues and peers can look at your work and ask questions you might not think about as the researcher. It can really improve your writing, particularly if you’re writing a book meant for a general audience.”

Panelists also gave students tips and an overview of the publishing process.

“The publishing process can be absolutely glacial,” Kim said during the panel discussion. “Keep that in mind when you submit a book proposal to a publisher, especially if you’re working against tenure and promotion deadlines.”

Bhattacharyya and Young agreed, adding that it’s important to talk to your peers to find out which publishing companies specialize in content in a specific discipline.

To end the event, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions and talk with panelists about their research, while enjoying the traditional ScholarSnack treats: Philly-style soft pretzels.

At the Libraries’ next ScholarSnack event on October 24, 2018, Drexel CCI Teaching Professor Thomas Heverin, PhD will lead a workshop on the ethical hacking of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. We hope even more students interested in exploring topics beyond their coursework will join us later this month!